Ombudsman orders Redbridge Council to apologise to family of disabled schoolboy

Redbridge Council has been ordered to pay a family almost £10,000 after its failure meant a disabled 11-year-old received no schooling for an entire year.

The local government ombudsman ruled on February 12 that council failures also meant the boy, who has severe epilepsy and autism, missed out on 16 months of therapeutic care.

The child, not named for privacy reasons, was due to start secondary school in 2015 but was too ill to attend for a year, during which time the council failed to arrange home schooling.

When he returned to school, his mother discovered he was not receiving some of the support, such as physiotherapy, outlined in his care plan and began paying for weekly sessions herself.

In a report on the decision, ombudsman Michael King wrote: “Upon concluding that (he) was medically unfit to attend school, the council had a duty to provide alternative education.

“The council’s failure to assess (his) suitability for homeschooling, meant he went without education and (special educational needs) provision for a whole school year. This is an injustice.”

Regarding the lack of support once at school, Mr King wrote: “There were very few face-to-face sessions with an occupational therapist, with prolonged periods where no sessions took place at all.

“His physiotherapy provision was also not fully met, with prolonged periods without any sessions taking place, despite records showing he was attending school.

“(His mother) arranged physiotherapy sessions for (him) at a cost of £60 a session but was unable to afford to pay for the other provisions not being met by the council.

“(He) went without his therapies from when he returned to school in September 2016, until… May 2018, a period of approximately 16 months.”

The council was ordered to apologise to the boy’s family and pay £4,000 for the year of missed education and support in 2015 to 2016.

It must reimburse his mother £2,400 for the physiotherapy she paid for, £3,200 for the support he missed while at school and £200 for her “distress, time and trouble” – a total of £9,800.

The council has been instructed to provide the ombudsman with “evidence that it has reminded staff… to assess children who are out of education due to poor health”.

It must also complete an audit of all other children meant to receive special educational needs support at the boy’s school, to ensure they are receiving it as required, within three months.

Mr King concluded: “I now urge Redbridge Council to take on board the recommendations in my report and consider how they might implement them to improve services for children with special educational needs in the borough.”

Redbridge Council was offered an opportunity to comment but had yet to do so at the time of writing.

Advertisement

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter